I’m out for the count!

THE man running next year’s census in Kirklees is counting on a full house.

John Birkenshaw is aiming at a 100 per cent response in supplying information for the compulsory population check.

And he warns that not filling in the form could hit government funding for the area and lead to a fine of up to £1,000.

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From his Batley home, retired police officer John is now getting down to the task of recruiting the people he will need to carry out the census in Kirklees.

Hundreds of full and part-time jobs will be created at pay rates linked to similar jobs in the private sector.

The census will be done in March and area manager John needs 14 co-ordinators to manage teams of 15 collectors and enumerators. And he stresses the importance of local people applying. “Local knowledge will be vital,” he said.

The census, which takes place every 10 years, starts in March with forms coming by post. They will start to arrive around March 4 and people have up to March 27 to fill them in and return, with 10 days grace on top. “If forms have not been returned after that, we will start asking why,” said John.

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The forms can be filled in on paper or, for the first time, on-line. It takes around 10 minutes to complete the household section and 10 minutes for each person.

“There is help available,” said John.” Forms are in English and Welsh only, but there is help in 60 different languages.

“It is vital that everyone completes the form,” he said. “Government grants are allocated per head of population, so if 1,000 people in Kirklees don’t fill in the form, it could hit funding by up to £500,000.”

The census returns are strictly confidential, with the details are locked away for 100 years. The results of next year’s count will be known in 18 months.

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Team leaders will work from February 7 to May and enumerators and collectors from February to April.

John, 56, was a detective inspector in Dewsbury before retiring after 31 years.

He then worked for Leeds City Council before landing the census job - clinching one of only six West Yorkshire posts from around 3,000 applicants.

“It is really interesting,” he said. “I was flattered to have been chosen.”

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Hard-to-reach groups such as young people and the elderly are a priority, but John says: “I am confident of getting through to everyone.

“The nationwide return rate last time was 94 per cent, with Kirklees mirroring that. West Yorkshire’s rate was 96 per cent return rate and I am aiming for 100 per cent in 2011.”

Adverts for enumerator jobs will be posted later this month with collector jobs following in November. Jobs are advertised at www.censusjobs.co.uk.